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← PreviousNext →Bam-a-Lam: The man Behind lamb Jam’s “Black Betty”

Many world are well-aware that the standard rock one-hit wonder “Black Betty” by ram Jam and also its heritage in film, television, advertisements, and other forms of popular society entertainment. Personally, I rather enjoy the song and I discover it to have actually a great percussive groove and also a catchy melody v some rather amazing rhythmic modulations and shifts. (Link below in instance you may not be familiar with the song)

Ram Jam – black color Betty (Official Audio)

However, not many world might no be mindful of that is origins, especially in the paper definition of black American music. Ram Jam did credit transaction the blues and folk artist Leadbelly because that the beginning of their cover and it to be advertised together a cover, as have the right to be viewed by Richard Cromelin’s combined review of lamb Jam’s concert at the Starwood in Los Angeles <1>:


While Leadbelly has actually been commonly credited as such, that cannot fully take credit transaction for something he recorded as a individual artist, together Henry Edward Krehbiel suggested that folk songs required to be birthed originally by a team of civilization rather than an separation, personal, instance artist <2>. The resource of the tune is consistently contested and the original meaning of what a “Black Betty” might have been, whether it be an item or a person. Part sources case “Black Betty” might have been supplied as at an early stage as the beginning of the 19th century to explain a musket or a liquor bottle, and also it is an extremely plausible those might be meanings that would certainly be used to the black color Betty in the song. One source I found specifically interesting to be our favorite people song collectors, John and Alan Lomax.

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In their arsenal of songs of the southerly chain gangs, the Lomaxes documented “Black Betty” sung by “a judge on the Darrington farm in Texas” and also what they construed “Black Betty” was:

“Black Betty is not one more Frankie, nor yet a two-timing woman the a man deserve to moan his blues about. She is the whip the was and also is used in some southerly prisons… wherein <…> whipping has been practically discontiuned…” <3>

Being that Leadbelly was additionally a member of Texas prison chain gangs, its an extremely plausible the he learned the song and also many rather there, and there may also be a trail that might be investigated additional into the musics the enslaved blacks in the US. Therefore, this demonstrates a rather exciting transmission the music from a possible origin in servant songs come white musicians like Ram Jam. They did manage to give credit to the artist who had actually a definitive recording, which I uncover to be at least somewhat aware on their efforts as recording artists in the American well-known music scene, but it have to be worth noting the affect of black people music the was felt together late as the 1970s and also that us are likely still emotion today.


<1> Cromelin, “Ram Jam at the Starwood”

<2> Krehbiel, “Songs that the American Slaves,” 22

<3> J.A. Lomax, A. Lomax, “American Ballads & people Songs,” 60


Cromelin, Richard. “Ram Jam at the Starwood.” Los Angeles times (1923-1995), Nov 12, 1977. 1,

Krehbiel, Henry Edward. “Songs of the American Slaves” in Afro-American Folksongs: A study in Racial and also National Music (New York: Frederick Ungar posting Co., 1914), 11-28.

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Lomax, man A., Lomax, Alan. “Songs from southern Chain Gangs” in American Ballads & folk Songs (New York: Macmillan Co., 1935), 57-86.